the Facts, Ma’am
Karl Rove has moved his office into the Matrix. Maybe Laurence
Fishburne is auditioning for Ari Fleischer’s job. Maybe it’s
all just a bad dream: The White House Reloaded.
I’ve been racking my brain, trying to reconcile the ever-widening
chasm between what the White House claims to be true and what
is actually true. After all, we know the president and his
men are not stupid. And despite the tidal wave of misinformation
pouring out of their mouths, I don’t believe they are consciously
The best explanation I can come up with for the growing gap
between their rhetoric and reality is that we are being governed
by a gang of out-and-out fanatics.
The defining trait of the fanatic—be it a Marxist, a fascist,
or, gulp, a Wolfowitz—is the utter refusal to allow anything
as piddling as evidence to get in the way of an unshakable
belief. Bush and his fellow fanatics are the political equivalent
of those yogis who can hold their breath and go without air
for hours. Such is their mental control, they can go without
truth for, well, years. Because, in their minds, they’re always
right. Oopso facto.
That pretty much sums up the White House m.o. on everything,
from the status of Al Qaeda to the condition of postwar Iraq
to the magical job-producing virtues of the latest round of
Who else but a fanatic would have made the outrageous claim,
as the president did last Friday, just four days after the
deadly reemergence of Al Qaeda in Riyadh, that “the United
States people are more secure, the world is going to be more
peaceful”? More peaceful than what? The West Bank?
In the weeks before the attacks in Riyadh, the president had
repeatedly maintained that “we are winning the war on terror,”
and that Al Qaeda was “on the run . . . slowly, but surely,
being decimated.” So he clearly wasn’t going to let a little
fact like 34 dead bodies—the result of three closely coordinated
suicide-bomb attacks—change his mind.
He was similarly unperturbed by that troubling new report
from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, an
influential and nonpartisan British think tank—released a
day after the Riyadh bombings and three days before the president
proclaimed us “more secure”—which found that Al Qaeda was
“just as dangerous” and “even harder to identify and neutralize”
than it was prior to 9/11.
And just four hours after the president strapped on his trusty
blinders and delivered his rosy vision of a more peaceful
world, the tranquility was shattered by the five simultaneous
suicide blasts in Casablanca. Oh well, at least we still have
the upcoming Jessica Lynch TV movie to make us feel good about
ourselves—give or take a few last-minute rewrites by the BBC.
The president’s evidence-be-damned fanaticism is equally apparent
when it comes to the state of postwar Iraq. “Life is returning
to normal,” he proclaimed just two weeks after the fall of
Baghdad. “Things have settled down inside the country.”
Really? Just who is preparing his morning briefing papers?
Pollyandy Card? Little Condoleezza Sunshine? Did he bother
consulting any Iraqis about “normal life” there? Probably
not. One of the keys to being a flourishing fanatic is to
surround yourself with those of a shared—and equally deluded—mindset.
And according to that mindset, the definition of “settling
down” can be expanded to include rampant looting, sporadic
water and electrical service, hospitals in disastrous condition,
outbreaks of cholera and dysentery, streets filled with uncollected
garbage and raw sewage, half a dozen ransacked nuclear facilities,
missing barrels of radioactive material, growing anti-American
sentiment, and disparate ethnic and religious groups arming
themselves. No wonder Don Rumsfeld called the media’s reporting
of all this “an overstatement.” It’s just another “normal”
weekend at Camp David.
And don’t bother trying to make the case that everything isn’t
hunky-dory in Baghdad to rabid acolytes such as Jay Garner.
Like the president, the demoted viceroy doesn’t care what
the facts indicate—to him even a looted and punctured glass
can be half-full. “We ought to be beating our chests every
day,” he said, dismissing the notion that any of us should
feel bad about the problems besetting Iraq. “We ought to look
in a mirror and get proud. We ought to stick out our chests
and suck in our bellies and say, ‘Damn, we’re Americans.’
” That’s sure to win us some more goodwill around the world.
Hoo-rah, and pass the Kool-Aid, General Jay!
And if you think the president is saving his fanaticism only
for the international sector, think again. His dogged devotion
to selling his latest round of tax cuts for the wealthy as
a “jobs-creation plan”—despite an avalanche of evidence that
it will do nothing of the sort—proves that he can be just
as fervent on the home front.
are on the line,” said Bush after the Senate passed its version
of the tax cut. “I call on Congress to resolve their differences
quickly so I can sign a bill that will help create jobs, boost
take-home pay and spur economic growth.” And for those with
“. . . illionaire” as part of their economic description,
it probably will.
It obviously makes no difference to the president that 10
Nobel Prize-winning economists have condemned his tax cuts
as “not the answer” to high unemployment, or that a new Congressional
Budget Office study found that the “jobs and growth package”
will actually have very little effect on long-term growth.
Not interested. Not listening. The 1.4 million jobs the White
House repeatedly says the tax cuts will create are more a
matter of a fanatic’s faith than of dispassionate forecasting.
The fact is there are now 2.1 million more unemployed Americans
than when Bush took office—the vast majority of them having
lost their jobs after the president’s initial $1.3 trillion
tax cut was passed in 2001. Difficult evidence to ignore—unless
“ignore the evidence” is your 11th commandment.
A popular definition of insanity is: doing the same thing
over and over again while expecting a different result. Well,
that seems to be the White House theory on the power of tax
cuts to produce new jobs: It didn’t work before; let’s try
Welcome to the D.C. Matrix.